AIKEN — One-third of the conference schedule is complete, and USC Aiken coach Vince Alexander is pleased with what he’s seeing on the court.
Re’mon Nelson and Jesse Seilern each scored 13 points as the Pacers built a big first-half lead and cruised to a 66-55 win over Clayton State on Wednesday night.
USC Aiken (9-4, 5-1) leads the Peach Belt Conference East Division by a half-game over Augusta State, which plays Flagler at home tonight. The Pacers will close out the month with a five-game stretch in 13 days, beginning with a trip Saturday to West Division leader Young Harris.
“I really think our team hasn’t reached its potential,” Alexander said. “Once we get healthy, and once these guys continue to learn how to play with one another, we’re going to get better.”
Eleven days earlier, USC Aiken blew a 14-point lead in the final 8:20 to Columbus State, losing in overtime. Against the Lakers (7-7, 3-4), the Pacers struggled in the second half shooting 32 percent from the field, but they never slipped.
USC Aiken bounced back from an early opening deficit with a pivotal 23-6 run midway through the first half.
The Pacers led by 18 at halftime and stiff-armed the Lakers the rest of the game.
Forward Paul Larsen posted 11 points and 14 rebounds, while forward Santoine Butler added eight points and four boards. Alexander said he thought his team could score on Clayton State down low.
“We wanted to go inside to Paul and Santoine Butler, but Butler was a little bit under the weather. So he didn’t perform up to his potential tonight,” Alexander said.
“But he’s a good player and he’ll do a great job for us.”
The Lakers shot 40 percent from the field, with Juron Dobbs scoring a team-best 12 points. Clayton State pulled within eight three times in the second half, but the Lakers hurt itself shooting 16 for 27 from the foul line (59 percent) and committing 17 turnovers.